More and more people in Germany are reducing the amount of meat they eat. The supermarket ranges of vegetarian or vegan substitute products is growing, explains Dr. Susanne Wiese-Willmaring, food officer at the German Federal Environment Foundation (DBU). However, this is not entirely without problems: many of these products are made from soya, for the cultivation of which rainforest is cleared and which can cause allergies. With vegans, it can be the cause of a lack of certain vitamins, as the substitute products only have these in small quantities.
In a project of the University of Applied Sciences Hamm-Lippstadt, a meat substitute is now to be produced from regional residual materials from the food and beverage industry, like apple, onion and carrot leftovers. This pulp should contain the necessary vitamins and be able to compete with animal products in terms of taste, nutritional value, texture and "mouth feel". The DBU is supporting the project technically and financially with 425,000 euros.
Looking for alternatives
"The production and consumption of animal products is increasingly being viewed critically, especially from the point of view of sustainability," says project leader Prof. Dr. Thomas Kirner. Moreover, excessive consumption, especially of meat, poses health risks. A new awareness of the consumption of animal products can now be observed in Germany. According to current figures from the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, six percent of Germans are vegetarians or vegans - and the number is rising. Many people are also reducing their meat consumption.
A shelf full of possibilities
Various food manufacturers have also recognized this trend and brought vegan or vegetarian substitute products from the niche to the mass market. "The choice is now very wide. But many of these foods are made from soy. In the countries where this is grown, rainforests are cleared and pesticides used. In addition, they do not contain vitamin B12, which is only found in animal products," explains Wiese-Willmaring. B12 plays an important role in many processes in the human body and must be taken in vegan nutrition through supplements such as tablets. Many people are also undersupplied with vitamin D because it can only be taken in with food from animals, such as certain fish species.
Meat substitute from fruit and vegetables
In cooperation with Quh-Lab Lebensmittelsicherheit (Siegen) and Oltmer Food Consulting (Edewecht), the University of Applied Sciences Hamm-Lippstadt is working on a meat alternative, which is produced regionally and is to contain the vitamins mentioned. "We are planning to use certain mushrooms to ferment fruit and vegetable residues, for example from juice production. Ultraviolet light is used to convert a natural substance contained in the mushrooms into vitamin D2. In addition, microorganisms naturally enrich the product with B12, thereby making the addition of artificial vitamins unnecessary," said Kirner. The result is a protein- and vitamin-rich vegan biomass that can be further processed into meat substitutes.
From laboratory to practice
This method has already been successfully tested in the laboratory. In this project, the implementation on a production scale is now planned, initially in a so-called fermenter with a capacity of 40 to 50 litres. The challenge is to develop a uniform process despite the different requirements regarding temperature or oxygen content of the fungi and bacteria involved. At the end of the project, in addition to a life cycle assessment, a stable and cost-effective production in the 500-litre fermenter is to be achieved and the potential for further scaling estimated. "This process makes it easier to ensure the supply of essential vitamins with a purely plant-based diet. By using regionally accumulating residues from beverage and food production, these can be made usable, long transport routes can be avoided and rural areas can be upgraded," says DBU secretary general Alexander Bonde.
For more information:
Prof. Dr. Thomas Kirner
University of Hamm-Lippstadt|